Monthly Archives: February 2009

Carnegie Mellon Film Fest! Bomb It Screening –

If you’re in Pittsburgh, check it out –

March 1st, 5:00 p.m.

Reel World Class Discusses Web Finance

I’m sitting in my Reel World Class at Cal Arts showing the class how to blog and how easy it is. We got here by being sidetracked by a Web 2.0 vs Web 1.0 discussion. More later. Check out

Don’t Miss – Bomb It Screenings

The Free Library of Philadelphia!
Wednesday, February 25th at 7:00 p.m.


Royal Ontario Museum!
Thursday, Feb 26th at 7:00 pm.

“Bomb It, Graffiti Film, Graffiti Documentary, Global Graffiti Documentary, Street Art Film, Street Art Documentary, Jon Reiss, Graffiti, Street Art, Public Space, anti-graffiti, graffiti enforcement, advertising and graffiti, graffiti and art, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, Revs, Revok, Lady Pink, Cornbread, Taki 183, Blek le Rat”

Nine Inch Nails “Happiness in Slavery” Music Video

Quite a while ago I directed a music video for Nine Inch Nails “Happiness in Slavery”. It caused a bit of a stir in the music industry and music video industry. It was the first video that Trent gave to Interscope as part of their new contract. You can find out more about it on my website – in the shorts and music video section.

I just recently started getting google alerts for some of my past work and I’m coming across some posts. Here’s a blog about the video from DyRe on Everything2:

The music video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” is probably one of the bloodiest things I’ve ever seen, all the moreso because most of it is real. The video focuses on Bob Flanagan (who died at the age of 43 in 1996 due to cystic fibrosis), whose claim to fame is his art showcasing his masochism as his method of dealing with the anguish of cystic fibrosis. Flanagan’s masochism in the video ties in with the theme of the song, which I’m sure you can all figure out from the title or lyrics (already noded above).

The video is shot entirely in black and white and begins with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor sitting in a cage screaming the words to the song. When the line “don’t open your eyes you won’t like what you see” begins, the view switches to Bob Flanagan, wearing a suit, entering a room in the centre of which is a metal bed attached to some machinery. As the song continues, Flanagan lights a candle and removes his clothes, staring at himself in a mirror momentarily (during which time his reflection retracts into the mirror) before lying down on the bed. Once he lies down, the machine binds his arms and legs and goes to work.

This isn’t pretty.

First a part of the machine extends three spikes into his left hand, pulling on it once securely in place. Next a mechanical claw appears, pinching various parts of Flanagan at first, eventually tearing into his skin and pulling out some small bits of flesh. All the while Flanagan appears pained but enjoying it. As the song continues into the bridge, the machine intensifies its torture, really digging into Flanagan, squeezing his testicles, and other mean sorts of things. Slightly disorienting shots of churning machinery, wiggling insects, and dripping blood are all thrown in the video as well. As the song reaches the screaming coda, the machine’s torture mechanism reach a climax (this would be the point at which the machine’s mutilation of Flanagan’s body ceased to be real), crushing his genitals under a heavy plate, ripping open his abdomen, seemingly killing him, then grinding him up and squeezing the gooey gunk that’s left over down upon the previously shown insects. Afterwards, the machine and bed revert to the position they were in prior to use. As the song fades to the whisper of “happiness, it controls you” Trent Reznor enters the room, dressed in a suit as Bob Flanagan was, and lights a candle as though he’s about to take his turn on the torture/death machine.

The music video for “Happiness in Slavery” can be found on the second tape of Nine Inch Nails’ VHS set Closure (it’s the seventh music video on the tape). It can also be found on the officially unreleased but highly bootlegged Broken movie (the rest of the gore in the Broken movie is fake) and at least some of it appears in Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist*. The music video was directed by Jon Reiss and produced by Adam Stern. The cameraman was Gary Tieche and the editor was Lauren Zuckerman. Production design was done by Liz Young.

Consult This: Jon Reiss at Film Independent (FIND) Tonight

Tonight I’ll be giving a crash course overview of diy/self/web distribution at Film Independent.

Here’s the link and the skinny: Consult This: Self Distribution

Director Jon Reiss, Bomb It, will be here to share his experience regarding self distribution. Learn the tools and tips of how to self distribute your film and get your film seen by the widest possible audience.

Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed, award winning filmmaker who has produced and directed three feature films, Better Living Through Circuitry, Cleopatra’s Second Husband and most recently Bomb It, an in depth look at the explosion of graffiti culture throughout the world and the resulting battle over public space. Reiss created Hybrid Cinema to release Bomb It himself in the United States. He is writing a series of articles for Filmmaker Magazine discussing his experience creating a multi faceted strategy utilizing theaters, festivals, museums to screen the film in addition to pursuing alternative DVD distribution models to work in conjunction with the film’s release by Docurama/New Video.

Jon has taught both film directing and production for the last 10 years most recently at the California Institute for the Arts where he created the class “Reel World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Been Taught in Film School.” This course covers the practical aspects of surviving as an independent writer/producer/director in today’s economy from finding a job, pitching and script development, to financing and new models of distribution. For more information go to Jon can be contacted at

DVD Distribution How To in Filmmaker Magazine

My second in my series of Hybrid Distribution How To’s has been come out in Filmmaker Magazine. Here it is:

Setting up DVD distribution: Yes, you can still make money doing this.

Following — or perhaps instead of — your independent film‘s theatrical release is its release on DVD. While sales of DVDs released by all content providers, studios included, are dropping at the moment, home video is still one of the most lucrative stages of a film‘s distribution. And while much has been written about filmmakers self-distributing their films to theaters (see, for example, part one of this series in the Fall 2008 edition of Filmmaker), filmmakers‘ options when self-distributing their work to the home market have been less well covered. Rest assured, however — the same grassroots marketing strategies and cost-saving economies can be brought into play.

I don‘t think it was clear in part one of this series, but I was offered quite a few theatrical/DVD offers for my graffiti doc Bomb It. Like most deals independents are faced with these days, these were very low-money offers in which the buyer wanted all rights for at least 10 if not 20 years. While these companies were offering a small theatrical release, my producer and I were savvy enough to realize that theatrical releasing expenses would be cross-collateralized with DVD and cable revenue. Translation: The likelihood that we would see any additional money beyond the tiny advance was small. Plus we would lose all control of the film and its revenue streams for many years.
Continue reading →

Hybrid Cinema Seminar at True/False Film Festival

At the end of this month I travel to the True/False Film Festival to give one of my introductory talks on Hybrid Cinema – from the Filmmaker’s perspective on Saturday February 28th at 10am. This overview is an intro to a longer seminar that I am planning to start offering – a nuts and bolts course for independent filmmakers on how to release their films – without any other help.

If you are coming to True/False – come on down and introduce yourself.

Hybrid Cinema – A Filmmakers Perspective: A From the Trenches Guide to
Self, DIY and Web Distribution for Filmmakers
Columbia Art League/Saturday 10am
(with filmmaker Jon Reiss)

2008 marked the implosion of the traditional independent film
distribution model in which specialty divisions offered millions.
While the Internet has contributed in part to this collapse, it also
represents an incredible opportunity. Just as the digital revolution
created a democratization of the means of production, the Internet has
matured to the point where independent filmmakers can now control the
means of getting their film seen. Jon Reiss, who released his film
“Bomb It” in 2008, is among a new set of pioneers exploiting a new
hybrid model of distribution. It is not just self-distribution, or
Internet distribution – but combines the best techniques from each–
hence Hybrid Cinema.

Bomb It Screens in Australia

Bomb It played this last weekend at the Australian Center for the Moving Image – ACMI – The Australian version of the AFI and BFI.

I did an interview with the paper The Age that printed last Friday. Here it is:

Wall and Piece
February 13, 2009
Bomb It! The Global Graffiti Documentary is screening at ACMI until Sunday.
Graffiti is struggle territory, as a new film documents. By Craig Mathieson.

RESEARCHING and shooting footage for his documentary on modern street art, Bomb It! The Global Graffiti Documentary, took filmmaker Jon Reiss around the world. There was a rooftop in Berlin on which he spent a night, after the graffiti artists he was shooting became convinced plain-clothes police were down the block; an encounter with the English police in Sheffield, who thought they’d uncovered terrorist activities; even a journey into the sewers of Sao Paulo, in Brazil, that ended mere minutes before a flash flood filled the tunnels in which they’d been shooting.

“There’s a genetic coding for parents that blanks out the first six months of having a baby, otherwise no other parents would have any more children,” says Reiss. “It’s the same for filmmakers — they forget the pain and suffering that goes into making a film.”

But what Reiss and director of photography and co-producer Tracy Wares gathered from those and many other nocturnal shoots, and some 400 interviews, was an incisive overview of a movement typically met with scorn or cliched recognition. An authoritative history lesson and an intelligent survey of urban politics, Bomb It! is about far more than the rattle of aerosol cans and spread of graffiti writers’ signatures.

“One of the things that attracted me to the film was the universal need of humankind to write on walls,” explains Reiss.

“That doesn’t change across cultures. The forum changes, but the motivations stay the same. For people who are disenfranchised, there’s a need to make your mark and claim public space. Graffiti is one of the ways, consciously and unconsciously, that they can do that.”

Graffiti stretches back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, but the modern era began in a Philadelphia neighbourhood in 1967 with Darryl McCray, whose signature (or tag) was “Cornbread”. By the time Cornbread had tagged an elephant at the Philadelphia zoo (for which he was arrested), graffiti as we know it had spread to New York, before becoming a global phenomenon.

Street art’s international evolution is a key element in Bomb It! While the American scene is characterised by rivalries and running battles with authorities, the Dutch used it to further their fascination with typography, the French saw it as a tool for social commentary, and South Africans deployed it as a means of defiance in the struggle against apartheid.

Fittingly, Bomb It! is screening at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, opposite the southern end of Hosier Lane, which is the epicentre of Australian street art. Budgetary restraints prevented Reiss visiting Melbourne, despite its international reputation — “like Barcelona, it’s becoming known for beautiful street art on the walls”, he notes. “But the film’s underlying theme of public space and who controls it is as applicable here as anywhere internationally,” he says.

“I wouldn’t have been so addicted to the film if it wasn’t for that,” admits Reiss. “I realised early on how it was about a battle for public space and how the writers were conscious of that. Throughout the world there is a desire to create art in public, and beautify their surroundings. There’s also this co-option by corporations.”

An erudite 49-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, Reiss has been examining life on the fringes and the application of do-it-yourself philosophy since he was first attracted to punk rock in the late 1970s.

Some of his first works were on infamous American performance group Survival Research Laboratories, while in 1999 he made Better Living Through Circuitry, a well-received documentary about the rave movement.

“I’m always drawn to subversive subcultures,” Reiss says.

“There’s an exchange of ideas in my films … they’re more essays than focusing on one individual story. So much of the documentary world wants that personal narrative, but my films don’t do that,” he says.

“People who don’t fit into contemporary society find a place within subcultures to create a community and family unto themselves; that’s very much my story. What attracted me to punk rock was what attracted me to rave culture was what attracted me to graffiti.”

Bomb It Spring Screenings!

Hi everyone,

Here is a list of all our upcoming screenings in the Spring of “Bomb It!” If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!

Feb. 5 – Feb. 8, Austrailan Center for the Moving Image, Melbourne, Austrailia.

Wednesday, February 25th at 7:00 p.m., at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Thursday, Feb 26th at 7:00 pm., Royal Ontario Museum,

March 1st, 5:00 p.m., Carnegie Mellon University, CMU Film Fest

March 9, Tempere International Film Fest

March 25-29, International Film Festival Breda